Frank Blocker and Richard Sheinmel in a scene from Post Modern Living | Stephen Mosher
Description: The antidote for soulless synthetic musicals—this true-to-life pair of plays with songs tells the tale of a gay downtown performance artist, his mom, her breast cancer, and the spirits that surround us all.
First Produced: 2010
Date Added: 6/10/2012
Content Advisory: Some strong language and adult subject matter
Gay and Lesbian ·
Sickness and Mental Illness ·
Art and Artists ·
Large Cast Size
1 Act, 90 Minutes
5 Females, 5 Males
Post Modern Living is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to email@example.com.
Original Production Information
Post Modern Living was first presented by La MaMa E.T.C. (Ellen Stewart, Founder and Artistic Director) on April 16, 2010, at The Club at La MaMa with the following cast and credits:
The Twelfth Day
Mitch Richard Sheinmel
Chester Mick Hilgers
Cousin Louie/Taxi Driver/College Advisor Chris Orbach
Dr. Zappi Frank Blocker
Meg Catherine Porter
Gerrie Briana Davis
Joy Wendy Merritt
Joy Wendy Merritt
Mitch Richard Sheinmel
Robby Frank Blocker
Cousin Louie Chris Orbach
Grace Catherine Porter
Gertrude Briana Davis
Featuring the All-Star Spirit Guides:
Scott Ethier, piano
Gabriel Luce, bass
Dan Acquisto, drums
Gian Stone, drum alternate
Director: Jason Jacobs
Music Director: Scott Ethier
Production Stage Manager: Heather Olmstead
Associate Producer: Jenny Seaquist
Costume Design: Jennifer Caprio
Set Design: John McDermott
Sound Design: Tim Schellenbaum
Light Design: Timothy M. Walsh
Hair Design: Monica Minoui
Publicity: Ron Lasko, Spin Cycle
Poster Art: Christopher Frommer
Production Assistance: Moira Cutler, Dan Shaked
Special thanks—Christopher Frommer and Caran-marie Zambo, Meg Anderson, Michael Baron, Christopher Borg, Rome Brown, Tim Cusack, David Derbyshrie, Will Lang, Ralph Lewis, Stephen Mosher, Barry Rowell, Nomi Tichman, Mike Wade, Atlantic Theater Company, BMI-Lehman Engel Musical Theater Workshop, and MCC Theater
The Twelfth Day and Über Mom were developed through the Naked Angels’ Tuesdays at Nine series, Joe Danisi and Stephanie Cannon curators.
The antidote to the surfeit of soulless synthetic musical comedies on Broadway awaits you at The Club at La MaMa, in the form of Post Modern Living, a musical (kind of) by Richard Sheinmel, with songs by Clay Zambo, whose casual informality, honesty, and warmth are rivaled only by its dazzlingly high entertainment quotient. I loved this show, and what I loved most about it was that it didn't spend all its capital trying to cajole or bully me into liking it—it got to me the old-fashioned way, with wit and charm and intelligence. The kind of show you definitely want to hang with.
Post Modern Living is, in fact, really two shows: a pair of mini-plays about the same set of core characters linked only by a single line of dialogue. The opening piece is called "The Twelfth Day"; it takes place on the twelfth day of Christmas, but it could almost be any day of the year. Sheinmel presents a slice of life in which various events occur, all of which seem momentous right when they're happening and then recede into lost trivial detail, precisely the way real life unfolds for all of us. The characters in the story are Mitch Mitchell, an East Village performance artist not unlike Sheinmel himself (and indeed portrayed by Sheinmel); Chester, his longtime partner in life and love; Joy, Mitch's mom; and friends Gerrie and Meg, who are Mitch and Chester's guests for the little Twelfth Day of Christmas party that caps this playlet. Mitch narrates sometimes; and other times a character named Uncle Louie guides us through the day, almost always with a guitar slung around his neck and a song on his lips. Mitch goes to the doctor; he and Chester briefly debate where they would go to live if the Republicans make a political comeback; Gerrie gets drunk at the party; Mitch and Chester tell their friends the story of how they met. Nothing happens and everything happens and Sheinmel lets it all just hang there, content not to find a moral or even a button for this wondrous and endearing piece; the realness is what makes it so magically perfect.
The second item on the agenda is more narrative-driven. It's called "Uber-Mom" and is indeed about Joy and what happens when she finds a lump in her breast that could possibly be cancer. It unfolds in Joy's kitchen, where Mitch is visiting and the two are preparing a meal; as they chop the salad ingredients, Joy recounts her trips to the hospital and her experiences with a lab technician named Grace who, Joy discovers, has a spirit guide named Gertrude. Mitch and Joy's loving conversation is interrupted occasionally by phone calls from Mitch's brother (who I guess suffers from bipolar disorder or something similar?), Robby.
The songs are more organically part of the first piece than the second, and they aren't that many in number, but they give the show a lively flavor. We're constantly aware that we're being told stories (sometimes within other stories); the whole point of the show, I think, is to revel, as a group—audience and performers—in the companion arts of listening and sharing with other living, breathing humans, all in a room together. The richness of this particular experience cannot be duplicated on the Internet or in a big auditorium where a manufactured entertainment is being unspooled.
Sheinmel is a smart and wry writer and performer, and I'm eager to see him in both capacities again soon. His fellow actors—Mick Hilgers (Chester), Catherine Porter (Meg and Grace), Briana Davis (Gerrie and Gertrude), Frank Blocker (Dr. Zappi and Robby), and Wendy Merritt (Joy)—all do fine work here. Chris Orbach as Uncle Louie (and in other incidental roles), leading the four musical numbers, is the glue that holds the night together snugly. Zambo's songs are melodic and genuinely incisive and witty; they are beautifully performed by an onstage trio consisting of Scott Ethier (piano/musical director), Gabriel Luce (bass), and Dan Acquisto (drums).
Director Jason Jacobs realizes the work beautifully on The Club's small, intimate stage. All of the production elements are spare and simple, with Sheinmel changing his costume unobtrusively on stage when necessary and most of the few props accessible to the actors from a couple of hanging shelves spaced around the playing area.
This is the second installment in the Mitch Mitchell saga (the first was Modern Living, back in 2006). I hope many more are still to come.
review of the original production in 2010
Interview with Tom Murrin, Paper Mag (2010)
It's unlike a typical play, it's more like a short story. I was originally inspired by listening to selected shorts on the radio, like NPR. So what happens is: we bring in a character and they tell a story, and it goes some place unexpected. I'm an artist, this is me; I'm telling stories that people tell me, that I hear. And then I'm putting it into my medium, which is plays.
Post Modern Living
How Christmas ends? Some holidays linger; others flash by in a puff of smoke and are gone. Like birthdays: now you’re twenty, flash, now you’re thirty, flash, now you’re forty, flash. Now what year were you born? Some play dress-up, go to big fancy affairs with strings of balloons and fireworks. Some tiptoe by in darkness, sneak around corners, go unnoticed, lay forgotten. And some, they outstay their welcome. Like this one: unwrapped presents under the tree, our wreath has lost its fresh scent, brittle, she drops pine needles. They gather and wait by the door. The last day of Christmas is slowly passing, leaving a new scar.
(MITCH arrives bedside with two cups of coffee and the Times. CHESTER rises. COUSIN LOUIE, a large man with a guitar, holds the pillows.)
Newspaper delivery service—what’s that smell?
It wasn’t me.
No it’s like sweet, like cinnamon. You don’t smell that?
(CHESTER pulls MITCH into the bed.)
Hey watch my stitches.
Today’s the day.
No more Lumpy?
I’m still Lumpy, just with one lump less.
I don’t want to look, I don’t want to look at the paper anymore.
Just politics as usual.
Please, the left had one minute of power and what do they do? Nothing—their radical change is more of the same—and they have missed it, they have missed the boat. Health care is never going to pass.
It’s not that bad.
It won’t be long before the conservatives are running the whole show again—and then, forget about gay marriage—they’ll want us all to pack up and leave.
Born on Coney Island, Richard is a graduate of both LaGuardia HS for Music and the Performing Arts and NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts studying both here at the Experimental Theater Wing, and Playwright’s Horizons; and abroad in Paris. After college he worked with many seminal artists from the early days of American indie theater, including Reza Abdoh, Penny Arcade, John Jesurun, Linda Simpson, Chris Tanner, Rebecca Moore, Everett Quinton and the Ridiculous Theatrical Company, SoHo Rep, Jean-Claude van Itallie, Ridge Theater, and MCC Theater (where he was a core member during its formative years) and most recently with Peculiar Works Project and Theater Askew. As an actor, he is probably best known for performing for more than ten years in Jeff Weiss and Richard Martinez’s Hot Keys serial at Naked Angels, MCC Theater, and P.S. 122. Films: The Headhunters Sister now on IFC and Pollack. His produced plays include Downtown Dysfunctionals (librettist; Zipper Theater, 2001) where he met his longtime collaborator composer and lyricist Clay Zambo, Jitter (Arclight Theatre, 2006), and the Modern Living series which began in 2006, in the club at La MaMa ETC. Post Modern Living edition was published in “Plays and Playwrights 2011” and is available for download at IndieTheaterNow.com. The most recent edition Lost in Staten Island, More Tales of Modern Living is slated for publication.